Wounded warriors are getting their own Paralympic-style invitational closer to home, a little more than a week after the Winter Olympics in Sochi ended.
The 4th annual Marine Corps Trials kicked off March 4 at Camp Pendleton.
More than 300 wounded service members will spend the nine-day trials focusing on their abilities, not their disabilities.
Some lost limbs, suffer from PTSD or were diagnosed with illnesses like non-epileptic seizures.
“I thought it would be the end of my career, the end of the athletic person that I am,” said Sgt. Michael Pride, who was injured in Afghanistan when his Humvee rolled onto his arm.
Shortly after returning home, Pride competed in his first Marine Corps Trials, calling it a grueling process.
Four years later, he’s helping others make it through their difficulties as an assistant coach.
The trials includes seven sports with four teams competing: battalion west, battalion east, Marine veterans and international allies (which include wounded warriors from Australia, Canada, France, Columbia and more).
Between March 7 and 12, teams compete in basketball, volleyball, archery, track and field, cycling, shooting, and swimming.
“I just hope it gives them a sense of belonging because some guys take themselves away from everybody,” said Pride.
Pride helps people like Iraq veteran Eric Calley, who left the service in 2006. Calley told NBC 7 he became an alcoholic soon after as he dealt with PTSD.
He credits the wounded warrior regiment for helping him get back on his feet and compete again.
“We never leave a Marine behind, and the Marine Corps didn’t leave me behind,” said Calley.
In addition to reinvigorating their competitive spirits, Marines say the trials offer a way to connect with other wounded warriors and to see how they overcome.
“They got this disability or that disability, but the fact is that they fall down seven and get up eight [times],” said Calley.
If you want to tune into the action, the Wounded Warrior Regiment live streams some of the events.